Blessed Assurance

  • Steve Hatter
Man holding his arms out on a mountain

We are living in a time when our daily news just seems to go from bad to worse. Our culture, government, and economic support systems appear to be literally crumbling around us at a breathtaking pace. The uncertainty has many Christians wondering whether the end, as promised in Scripture, is near. A logical byproduct of such speculation is concern regarding one’s very salvation. People want to know that If the Lord returns tomorrow, they will be among His family versus counted His enemy.

The New Testament Epistle First John addressed this very question in the first century by declaring the truth that gave believers assurance they were saved in Jesus Christ and therefore could be confident of eternal life and unbroken fellowship with God’s children. John communicated these assurances through four tenets, or principles, through which You might test your own faith: Assurance through the test of Christian fellowship; assurance through the conflict of faith; assurance evidenced in God’s love; and assurance verified by the witness of the Spirit. Let’s take a look at each of these.

Assurance Through the Test of Fellowship (1 John 1:5–5:12)

Do you like hanging out with the people you see in your church? Or, would you rather get in and out of Sunday service as fast you can, knowing it’s much more enjoyable to fellowship with whatever secular crowd shares your hobbies or interests? These are hard but fair questions because true Christians are drawn to other Christians. Moreover, true Christians also experience a growing sense of distance from the people and things of this world. Being around the true church family isn’t just where you should be, it must be where you want to be!

The apostle John defined Christian fellowship in his opening text: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1:3). John declared the basis of “our fellowship” to be God alone who “is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1:5). Hindrances to legitimate fellowship were described as walking in darkness—a metaphor for living deceptively—and claiming to be without sin, while yet sinning (1:6–10). As an antidote to hindrance, John gave instruction on the maintenance of fellowship (2:1–17). Christ is the provider of fellowship through His finished sacrificial work: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for our, but also for the sins of the whole world” (2:2). On Christ’s provision, the believer can prove himself in fellowship through obedience to Christ (2:3–5), by imitating Christ (2:6), by loving his brother as Christ taught (2:7–11), and by separating from the things of this world (2:12–17). Do these verses comfort you or poke you?

Assurance Through the Conflict of Faith (2:18–4:6)

What about how the government, culture, and media seem to be working together and overtime to attack truth and pick fights with Christians? Does the prospect of real persecution assure you or provoke you to avoidance? Again, these are tough but fair questions to ask because next, Christ’s chosen apostle John turned to warnings of antichrist in order to argue assurance of one’s salvation can be found in the certainty of conflict in the Christian life.

John promised conflict between truth and error regarding whether Jesus was the Christ (2:18–28): “This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son” (2:22). Conflict would also emerge between the children of God and the children of the Devil (2:29–3:12): “whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (3:8). “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil” (3:10). Conversely, the sign of the child of God is love and a Spirit-produced righteousness (2:29–3:3).

John also asserted there would also be conflict between love and hate (3:13–24): “Do not be surprised brothers if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death “ (3:14). A true Christian will be motivated to show compassion and to love as Christ loved.

Finally, John asserted conflict would come between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error (4:1–6). Christians must “test the spirits” because “false prophets have gone out into the world” (4:1). These false prophets sought to deny that Christ had come in the flesh, yet the Christian would know by the Spirit of truth that such claims were in error and of the spirit of antichrist (4:3). Do you desire to be counted courageous by our Lord when personally threatened for standing for truth, or do you suffer—as Pastor Crotts has been preaching about—”buyer’s remorse” as the bad news about the potential consequences of being labeled A Christian compounds daily?

Assurance from the Evidence of Love (4:7–5:5)

How about your heart condition? Do you truly and actually love the unlovable? Here we find another great test of our faith. John believed the Christian could find assurance of salvation in the evidence of God’s love (4:7–5:5). Redeeming love, he explained, “is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Moreover, “anyone who does not love God does not know God because God is love” (4:8). In light of transcendent love, the Christian is expected to love one another, to appreciate God’s love in sending His Son to die for sins, and to view the understanding of the precious Gospel as a spiritual test of one’s salvation. Do you mourn for the lost? Do you itch to share the Gospel, even if you’re not sure how? Only God can give you a heart for Him and for others through faith alone in Christ alone. Pray for such faith if you wonder about your heart’s true condition.

Assurance from the Spirit (5:6–12)

Finally, do you love God’s Word? Do you hunger for truth more and more, and do you understand sound doctrine in ever deeper ways? Do you increasingly abhor sin? Christians are promised the indwelling of the third member of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit, at conversion. The Holy Spirit provides illumination and conviction we did not have in our pre-salvation unbelief.

Therefore, the apostle John offers a fourth assurance of our faith which is the witness of the Spirit. John recounted the external, historic witness that gave testimony concerning the Son of God (5:6–9). God Himself testified to Jesus being the Christ which was witnessed “by the water and the blood; and these three agree” (5:8). John also described the internal witness of the Spirit (5:10–12) wherein the believer “has the testimony in himself” (5:10) manifest in His faith in the Son of God.

Final Thoughts

The uncertainties ever present in the daily news—inflation, political division, pandemics, World War III—are surely stressful, but the current world environment can also can be the impetus to perhaps finally, and fully examine ourselves as Paul exhorted the Corinthian Church is 2 Corinthians 13:5–8:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.

Passing the test is blessed assurance!